Family films to see at the cinema this week
Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family!
Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.
New releases out now
Peter Rabbit (PG)
Generations of children have been brought up on Beatrix Potter’s gentle tales about Peter, the flopsy rabbits and the other assorted wildlife that populated her books. However, it’ been deemed that today’s kids demand more than nostalgic whimsy when it comes big screen live/animation adaptations. Hence, this brash, energetic version which, looking to put hip into the hop, offers up Peter as a bunny with attitude voiced by James Corden, leading his fellow flop-ears on daring raids into Mr McGregor’s (Sam Neill) garden until one day, just as it seems he’s destined to become pie after finally being caught, the old man keeps over and dies. In celebration the animals run free over the land once more and take over the house. But then along comes McGregor’s nephew Thomas (Domhall Gleeson) who, recently let go from his management job at Harrods, has inherited the place and intends to fix it up and sell it so he can open his own toy store. He also has an aversion to rabbits, though he’s at pains to keep this from his aspiring artist neighbour, Bea (Rose Byrne who also voices Jemima Puddle-Duck), to whom he’s taken a shine, and who regards Peter and the other bunnies as almost family. What follows is Peter and the other rabbits attempt o rid themselves of the new McGregor and then, try and get him to come back when they realise it’s threatened Bea’s happiness and future.
Joined by the voices of Margot Robbie (Flopsy and narrator), Elizabeth Debicki (Mopsy), Daisy Ridley (Cotton-Tail) and Colin Moody (Benjamin) as the other rabbits with Sia as Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, it would love to be a countryside answer to Paddington, but it lacks the same innocent charm and humour, the rabbits’ antics often verging on the cruel (hence, the controversial blackberry-allergy attack on Thomas). Even so, if you can put aside thoughts of Potter’s originals (not easy since the flashbacks are in the style of her drawings) , this has enough energetic knockabout fun for the youngsters and several movie in-jokes and even class commentary for the grown-ups to earn its carrots. 95 mins
LGWTC Guidance: Myxomatosis for Potter purists, but kids will be glad the Easter bunny’s come early
A Wrinkle In Time (PG)
Adapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s children’s 1962 novel, this is a New Age trip for thirteen year olds. Four years after her NASA scientist father (Chris Pine) went missing while experimenting on bending time, science geek Meg Murry (Storm Reid) has withdrawn into herself and ostracised pretty much everyone at school. Then, after her super-intelligent adopted brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) puts in an SOS call to the universe, along come redhead Mrs Whatsit, (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and the diva-esque Mrs Which (Opra Winfrey), magical angel incarnations of the universe come to help Meg find her dad. So, joined by her brother and Calvin (Levi Miller), a classmate with a crush, they trave; through a wrinkle in the fabric of time to another dimension hoping to find what happened to him.
However, a seer (Zach Galifianakis) informs them dad’s been taken by the It, a darkness that wants to envelop the universe. The three Mrs take them to Camazotz, where It lives, but can’t stay, each giving Meg a gift before leaving. Once they’ve gone, the darkness attacks and It possesses Charles Wallace , so now Meg has to rescue both him and her father and get back to Earth.
Its message about overcoming insecurities and lack of self-esteem, confronting your flaws and weaknesses are sound, but it’s all so saccharine that it feels like you’re being suffocated with candyfloss. Reid rises above the poor screenplay and terrible CGI to bring soulfulness to her insecurities, but, sprawlingly uneven, almost totally devoid of emotional clout, this is a major letdown. 109 mins
LGWTC guidance: It might strike a note with troubled tweenage girls, but this is an ungainly mess
Pacific Rim Uprising (12A)
Set ten years after the original, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) a once-promising pilot of the Jaeger super-machines whose father gave his life to secure victory against the giant Kaiju monsters in the first film, is given the chance by his sister, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), to redeem himself, leave behind the criminal underworld and join rival pilot Nate (Scott Eastwood) training new Jaeger cadets, among then scrappy 15-year-old orphan Amara (Cailee Spaeny) whose built her own mini-bot. A Japanese company is developing drones to replace the need for Jaeger pilots, but when these go rogue, taken over by the Kaiju, Jake, Nate and the rookies take to the legendary Jaegers in a battle to stop them and prevent a gargantuan Kaiju reaching Mt Fuji and bringing about the end of the world.
The massive set pieces are thrilling enough, but the film simply lumbers from one cliché to the next in its attempt to be Transformers without the transforming, the entire thing feeling like a rerun of Independence Day: Resurgence, right down to the now we take the fight to them last line. The chances of a third incarnation of either film seems highly remote.. 111 mins Also in 2D and 3D IMAX
LGWTC Guidance: If all you want is giant robots fighting giant monsters, then this is your bucket of popcorn.
Duck Duck Goose (PG)
Directed and co-written by Christopher Jenkins who wrote Surf’s Up, set in China this is a middling animation for the Easter toddler market. Peng (Jim Gaffigan) is a goose with a superiority complex who refuses to conform with flock rules, not least practising for the upcoming annual winter migration, which ruffles the feathers of the flock leader, who also happens to be his girlfriend’s dad. While showing off his speed and flying stunts, he accidentally hits a flock of duckling, separating brother and sister Chao and Chi (Zendaya) and ultimately damaging his wing. Unable to fly, reckoning they’ll be a distraction for any potential predators, he offers to guide the ducklings back to the others en route to Paradise Valley, embarking on a long journey in which, pursued by a psychotic schizophrenic cat (Greg Proops), he’ll naturally learn lessons about unconditional love, responsibility and family.
Lurching from one slapstick moment and fart gag to another, it has its mildly amusing moments, but lacks any sense of ambition or, ultimately, charm. Stephen Fry and Craig Ferguson voice a couple of supercilious flamingos and veteran actor Carl Reiner is a wise old turtle, but, for anyone older than four, there’s little here to stop your mind turning to phrases like ‘a l’orange. 91 mins.
LGWTC guidance: Worth a gander if the kids have nothing better to do
Ready Player One (12A)
Steven Spielberg plunges into the world of virtual reality in this adaptation of Ernest Cline’s bestseller set in 2044, a future world on the brink of chaos and collapse. Here the only escape lies in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance) where the only limits are your imagination. When Halliday dies, he leaves his wealth to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a contest that grips the entire world.
Young gamer Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to get in on the contest and he and his friends from the resistance find themselves battling a super corporation headed up by the ruthless Sorrento (Ben Mendelssohn) who’ll stop at nothing to take them out as it turns into a David and Goliath story. A hyperkinetic rush that’s stuffed to overflowing with often blink and you’ll miss it pop culture references (you’ll go dizzy trying to spot them all), this may not have much by way of a soul, but it’s unquestionably a video game adrenaline addict’s dream. 140 mins. Also in 2D and 3D IMAX.
LGWTC guidance: A visual CGI extravaganza, the plot’s a little formulaic but once the exhilarating action stars, you might forget to breathe until the end.
Isle of Dogs (PG)
A stop motion animation for 10 year olds and over (and that includes grown-ups), writer-director Wes Anderson puts the pup into puppets with paws for thought about friendship, prejudice, social outcasts, refugees, government corruption, the environment and animal cruelty in what is basically a boy and his dog story. Set in a future Japan, in order to combat a doggy disease that threatens to infect humans, the tyrannical cat-loving mayor of Megasaki has exiled all dogs to a rubbish dump island and plans to eventually exterminate the entire species. However, his young nephew, Atari, bravely comes in search of his personal bodyguard pet, Spots (Liev Schreiber), and joins forces with a canny canine crew comprising Rex (Edward Norton), former baseball mascot Boss (Bill Murray), one-time pet food commercials star King (Bob Balaban), gossipy Duke (Jeff Goldblum) and, although initially reluctant, stray Chief (Bryan Cranston) in a search to find him and, eventually, foil the mayor’s plot.
Narrated by Courtney B Vance and with the voice cast also including Scarlett Johansson as former show dog Nutmeg, Greta Gerwig as a human American exchange student heading up the protestors, Tilda Swinton as psychic pug Oracle and even Yoko Ono as a research scientist, save for parts explained by news commentator Frances McDormand, the human dialogue is in Japanese, while the dogs’ barks are translated to English. Full of Japanese cultural references, playful, waggishly witty, brilliantly animated, thrilling and at times extremely touching, this is a prime contender for the movie year’s Best In Show. 101 mins.
LGWTC guidance: It’s a mutts see
Sheep and Wolves (U)
A Russian animation dubbed into English with Harry Potter’s Tom Felton in the lead role, this carries an upbeat message about everyone getting along together that just about compensates for its basic animation, repetitiveness and constant slapstick with characters either falling over, running into something or getting something stuck on their head. Having found the wolf pack a new home, leader Magra announces he’s retiring and that his successor will be whoever wins the fight between the carefree Grey (Felton) and the ruthless Ragear, who wants to do away with ancestral laws and hunt the sheep they’ve discovered living in the neighbouring valley. To complicate the rivalry, fed up of waiting for him to pop the question, Bianca dumps Grey, telling him he’ll never change which, in turn, leads him to drink a potion from a rabbit fortune teller. Change he does. Unfortunately, it’s into a ram. As such, taken in and cared for by kindly ewe Lira, to whose baby brother he becomes a teacher, he gets to really know the sheep and, when Raeger and his followers attack, he has to decide which side to help.
An amusing twist on the wolf in sheep’s clothing saying, there’s also parallel storylines about Grey helping bashful sheep Moz express his true feelings for Lira and showing how ridiculous are the superstitions by which the flock live. It borrows heavily from the Lion King (especially in the elimination of Magra) and it’s all a bit garish and rather padded out, but undemanding youngsters will enjoy. 85 mins. Limited release.
LGWTC Guidance: A bit woolly but enjoyable enough that you won’t feel fleeced in buying a ticket
The Greatest Showman (12A)
Hugh Jackman stars as P.T. Barnum, a 19th century hoaxer and showman who pretty much invented modern entertainment when he founded Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show On Earth with himself as the ringmaster. A rumbustious musical, this isn’t entirely historically accurate (Barnum was 60 before he started his circus and was nowhere near as good-looking as Jackman), but it is riotous, colourful fun as it follows Barnum as he first opens a museum of wax figures and stuffed animals, then recruits a collection of freaks and misfits, including a bearded lady (Keala Settle), Siamese twins and a hairy Dog Boy, which, despite a bad review, attracts the crowds – but also protests from the bigots. Looking to capture a highbrow audience, he signs up famous Swedish opera star Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) for an American tour, but things don’t go as well as planned, almost ending his marriage, while back in New York a fire at the circus seems to have ruined him financially too.
Co-starring Michelle Williams as his childhood sweetheart wife Charity and Zac Efron (in his first singing role since High School Musical) as a wealthy and well-connected theatrical producer looking for some excitement who becomes his partner and gets them presented to Queen Victoria, this is a celebration of diversity and family, underdog dreams and the uplifting power of pure entertainment packed with songs from the duo behind La La Land with Settle’s This Is Me and the rousing cast finale From Now On just two of the highlights. Glorious. 105 mins
LGWTC guidance: A fabulous family-friendly Broadway musical styled celebration of showmanship and spectacle
Rampage 3D (12A)
Dwayne Johnson follows up Jumanji with another family friendly popcorn triumph, a giant monsters destroy cities yarn loosely based on the 80s arcade game, but also clearly inspired by the likes of King Kong and Godzilla. Davis Okoye (Johnson), a San Diego Wildlife Preserve primatologist has a special bond with George, an albino gorilla he rescued from poachers and with whom he talks in sign language. That bond is put to the test, however, when a case containing samples from a secret experiment about weaponising genetic editing, promoting rapid growth and strength in the subjects, crashes to earth in his compound.
The next morning George has grown several feet and piled on the weight. He’s not the only one affected. There’s also a giant wolf and an alligator. All of this is down to Clare (Malin Akerman) and Brett Wyden (Jake Lacy) who head up a genetics corporate. They’re out to make a bundle and want to get their hands on one of the creatures to extract the formula, so, when an attempt to bring down the wolf ends in a bloody mess, Clare decides to engage a homing beacon atop their Chicago HQ to send out sonic signals that will draw the creatures there to shut them down.
On the side of the good guys, there’s Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), the geneticist whose work was perverted by the Wydens, plus Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a good’ ole Texas boy from one of those secret government agencies that don’t even have a name, who’s been sent to clear up the mess.
Driven by rage, George, wolf and the alligator all start tearing apart Chicago, and Davis and Kate have to try and get their hands on the antidote while avoiding falling buildings and get George back on side before the military commander calls in the mother of all bombs to level the city.
The CGI is dodgy in parts, but in terms of mass destruction the film ably lives up to its title. Johnson does his familiar sensitive muscle man routine, also flexing his comic biceps to amusing effect, even if Morgan steals every scene with his dry one liners. Akerman and Lacy play their villains with a sly wink at how silly it all is and Harris holds her own as more than just the female sidekick. However, the film’s biggest laughs come courtesy of George’s signed insults. And if you’re wondering about Rampage 2, just ask yourself what happened to that rat in the glass cage. 106 mins. Also in 2D and IMAX 3D
LGWTC guidance: It’s all very silly, but hugely entertaining.
Avengers: Infinity War 3D (12A)
The first of the two-part culmination of the Avengers saga sees them pitted against worlds-destroyer Thanos (Josh Brolin) who has come to Earth in his search to collect all six Infinity stones, artefacts of unimaginable power, one of which is located in the Vision’s forehead. To defeat him, the Avengers – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), The Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), Vision (Paul Bettany), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) will need to reunite with Captain America (Chris Evans) and also join forces with the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Ant-Man (Scott Lang), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillen, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, etc). Everything is being kept closely under wraps, including whether any of the superheroes die and what exactly is Hawkeye’s ‘special journey’, but expect this to be jaw-droppingly sensational. 156 mins. Also in 2D and IMAX 3D
Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.